I was raised to explore my passions, be myself, and balance hard work with “being a kid”. I was raised in a world where summer meant days on the beach and nights by the grill. Now, summer is no more than a race for internships, a career competition that entices younger and younger students each year. The way I was raised, to many, ill-prepares me for the real world, where I will be doomed to unemployment, having fallen too far behind my competitors. Our ultra-competitive, career-focused, over-ambitious culture neglects the beauty of youth, forcing students to define their future before they’ve even chosen a major, or even been accepted to college at all. We ignore the basic life skills found in traditional summer jobs for the specialized nature of prestige and elitism and become identical, impersonal drones hungry for internships without true understanding of human interaction and universal skill sets. Being a waitress supplies me with these universally applicable skills and prepares me for any future ahead. Simply put, I am proud to be a waitress.
I am not completely denouncing the importance of internships: experience is important, and internships should be encouraged for college students. However, the race for internships has become too important and ignores the realities of youth: first and second year college students have not even declared a major, high school students do not even have a general diploma. They are neither qualified for a professional work atmosphere nor should be expected to immediately enter the adult world. Articles like “9 Reasons Your Current Resume Will Never Get You A Job At Apple Or Google” in Business Insider suggest that the only way to get a top job after college is to gather the most internships possible. Apparently, top employers only consider applicants with elite resumes stuffed with academic internships and research. Apparently, personality, hard work, self-improvement, and academic achievement do not matter.
This competitive environment means that students are bending over backwards to build their resumes and gain prestigious internships that will make them desirable to employers after graduation. You would think that with this new focus on gaining experience at a young age, employers would be incredibly impressed at graduating applicants and have trouble hiring because all the applicants have impressive resumes. Think again. Studies show that employers are increasingly unimpressed with college graduates, often reporting that applicants lack the communicative and abstract skills needed in a work environment. My first reaction to these reports is that these employers are harsh—college graduates today are indubitably more impressive than older generations, and likely are more qualified for these jobs than the interviewers were when they got hired. However, one distinction unique for Generation Y is that today, the focus is on concrete, direct experience. Abstract life skills and experience are devalued. My peers worry for my future when I say that this summer, I will work as a waitress rather than interning in marketing, finance, computer science, while my mother applauds my hard work in the restaurant as the means to gaining an important life skill. Employers are reporting that today’s graduates lack abstract problem solving and communication skills—two things I have learned as a summer waitress. Perhaps a focus on the bigger picture instead of direct experience would benefit the overall preparedness of college graduates today. Perhaps a reversal of the competitive, experience-driven career search would lead to better-qualified college graduates and, more generally, more well-rounded human beings.
My college essay was about working at my restaurant. I wrote about the importance of teamwork and the simplicity of an apology. I wrote about the beauty and chaos of a restaurant kitchen and the diverse group of hardworking servers, chefs, and staff that inspired me every day. They taught me discipline, routine, and customer service. They taught me how to survive under intense pressure, take angry criticism when I make mistakes, and treat everyone with a smile. Most likely, none of this is new to you: odes to waitresses exist everywhere. And yet, being a summer waitress is now synonymous with falling behind and compromising your future. Being a waitress got me into a top university and I refuse to believe that it sets me behind for my future. What I have learned in the restaurant industry can apply to any job or internship I find along the road, and as long as I am 18, I don’t want to rush into adulthood. I cherish my summers of freedom and plan to enjoy my last few years of youth before I am thrown in the competitive dog-eat-dog world of internships and careers.